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Kampala: Construction takes over as demand for land escalates

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th September 2009 03:00 AM

THE 50-metre tarmacked stretch of road connecting the usually traffic-laden Lourdel and Yusuf Lule roads is part of the prime land on Nakasero Hill, in Kampala City that Mayor Nasser Sebaggala, together with some of his staff and officials from the Uganda

By Chris Kiwawulo

THE 50-metre tarmacked stretch of road connecting the usually traffic-laden Lourdel and Yusuf Lule roads is part of the prime land on Nakasero Hill, in Kampala City that Mayor Nasser Sebaggala, together with some of his staff and officials from the Uganda Land Commission (ULC), sold to private developers.

This has enraged city councillors who, in an emergency meeting recently, expressed ignorance about the deal and promised an inquiry into the matter. Some say since they were not consulted over the transaction, Sebaggala and his cohorts should be investigated by the Police for breaching the law.

“The Criminal Investigations Directorate should investigate this dubious and illegal transaction. The mayor did it without the knowledge of the council,” says Makerere University councillor, Bernard Luyiga.

He says the council was last year informed that land for sale in the city was finished but was surprised that the mayor had turned to selling roads.

Woman councillor, Anne Nampeera Lubowa from (Kawempe South) asks: “How can you sell a road which is a public utility?”

John Mary Ssebuufu, the councillor for Kisenyi I in Kampala Central Division, says: “Before fencing off the road, the public should have been alerted about the impending changes.”

Another councillor from Nakawa division says: “This is corruption of the highest order. The Police and Inspector General of Government should help us,” notes another councillor from Nakawa division.

During the heated council meeting, the councillors wanted to know details of the deal from Sebaggala and town clerk, Ruth Kijjambu, but none of the two showed up. Instead it is the deputy mayor, Florence Namayanja, who appeared before the councillors.
Tasked to explain the road sale, Namayanja said she was simply told to sit-in for her boss (Sebaggala) and knew nothing about the deal.

Prior to that, Ssebagala and Kijjambu confirmed knowledge of the deal. Sebaggala told The New Vision that they sold the land to develop the city and create more jobs, adding that the affected road would be re-channelled: “The road will be changed. Demarcations for the new road are already in place,” Sebaggala explained.

Under the plan submitted to Kampala City Council (KCC), Sebaggala says the developers are to put up a three-in-one storied structure comprising an office block, apartments and parking.

“We cannot leave four people to operate flower gardens on a piece of land that can be developed to employ thousands of people. I cannot fight development,” he notes.

Asked about how much it was sold, Kijjambu said she could not recall the exact figure, but sources say the land was sold at over sh400m.

KCC sub-divided the land between the Ministry of Public Service’s reserved land for the construction of a records and archives centre and Heifer International Uganda offices. The land was later sold to two different individuals. The one-acre plot has been fenced off after KCC evicted the florists who have been operating there for over five years.

Jaberi Iga, one of the florists, says SebagGala told them the land had been sold to private developers. Facing the KCC executive, Sebaggala later revealed that it was the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban development that had bought the plot and road.

Sources say the ministry was planning to construct an information systems centre using funds from the World Bank through the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU).

However, when the KCC executive visited the site recently, it halted the construction and ordered law enforcement officers to remove the iron-sheet fencing the plot because it did not follow the right procedure.

Under the right procedure, when a developer is interested in a piece of land, the KCC works committee has to establish that the land has no encumbrances. The committee then sends a technical team to visit the proposed site and assess whether the developer is suitable to develop the land.

If the developer is deemed fit, the committee then informs the council of the intending developer for approval. The developer is then issued with a holding permit, and they can now fence off the land.

The developer then submits a development plan, which the technical team scrutinises and advises for changes where necessary before allowing the works committee to give them a go-ahead.

After approving the plan, KCC issues the developer with a commencement letter allowing construction to start.
In this case, all this procedure was ignored although PSFU argues it got a commencement letter from KCC.

Meanwhile, Kampala Central Member of Parliament, Erias Lukwago, has written to the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) seeking an explanation. In the letter he also copied to the Speaker of Parliament, Edward Ssekandi, Premier Apolo Nsibambi and Works Minister, John Nasasira, Lukwago demands to know the particulars of the investor(s) and the investment plan.

UNRA spokesman, Dan Alinange, says they are not in charge of the road in question but rather KCC.

According to Iga, after the sale of the land, vehicles from the ministries of lands and finance have been commonly spotted at the plot.

KCC officials destroyed the tree and flower seedlings of the florists as they evicted them recently: “We used to pay money to KCC and sometimes supply them with trees to plant in the city as payment,” Iga says.

The florists have since relocated to the roadside along the adjacent Public Service ministry land reserved for construction of its archives and records centre.

Both ULC chairperson Mayanja Nkangi and Urban Planning Minister Urban Tibamanya have denied knowledge of the transaction, intimating that a few officials were secretly involved.
The land sale documents originated from ULC and demarcations to re-channel the road were drawn by urban planners, The New Vision has learnt.

Local Government minister, Adolf Mwesige, says they have started an inquiry into the sale of the city road.
Asked whether there are punitive measures against those who could be found liable for the dubious transaction, Mwesige said; “I cannot speculate as per now until we have come up with findings.”

This is not the only plot KCC officials have sold under dubious circumstances. Kisekka and Nakasero markets, in addition to schools like City High, Kololo and Kitante Hill, have also been sold.

Kampala: Construction takes over as demand for land escalates

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